01: Domaine Willamette
Domaine Willamette is the latest crown jewel of the Willamette Valley Vineyards portfolio. It opened to the public on September 19, 2022. It is a spectacular place to visit and a must do when you come to the Willamette Valley.
The vineyard consists of all pinot noir fruit and is situated right off of Highway 99 in Dayton OR. These pinot grapes are not used to make pinot noir but rather “methode traditionnelle” sparkling wines. The results are pure bliss and not to be missed.
The entire facility is a homage to bio dynamic wine making practices as is with all of the vineyards in the Willamette Valley Vineyards portfolio.
They offer beautiful food pairings with the wine tastings, but they have full meals on the menu as well. Aside from the sparkling wines, you will also be able to taste all of the other great wines in the Willamette Valley Vineyards collection of extraordinary wines.
The design and décor are simply elegant. Jan Bernau, the wife of WVV founder Jim Bernau, took this project on and it was 6 years in the making. She did an amazing job, and everything seems to have a special meaning, something that is fun to discover on your own.
The Long Awaited Opening of Domaine Willamette
I am a shareholder in Willamette Valley Vineyards. As a shareholder, I am considered, along with any other shareholder, an owner. There are many of us all over the country. There are many advantages to being an owner of WVV. One of them is to be invited to exclusive events like the Owner’s Weekend & shareholders meeting that Jim Bernau puts on every year at the Main Estate. In September of 2022, Willamette Valley Vineyards opened the long-awaited Domaine Willamette.
Domaine Willamette is Oregon’s first sparkling wine facility that produces world-class méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines with an underground aging cellar at the biodynamically-farmed Bernau Estate Vineyard.
Mostly due to the pandemic, it took six years to complete. In September of 2022, the Owners of WVV, were invited, over a period of two consecutive weekends, to be the first to experience this incredible place.
I was very fortunate to be there for all five events and photographed each event. If you were at any of these events, you will probably find a picture of yourself within the videos below.
Owners Repection 9/03/2022
Owners Reception 9/04/2022
Owners Reception 9/10/2022
Owners Reception 9/11/2022
On September 15, 2022, Domaine Willamette hosted an open house for friends and family in the wine industry. There were many politicians and members of the press that showed up as well.
It was an incredible turnout with over 600 people enjoying the experience throughout the day.
02: Willamette Valley Vineyards
Willamette Valley Vineyards is in the Salem Hills. It is one of the largest producers of Pinot Noir wine.
It’s founder, Jim Bernau, planted his first Pinot Noir vines on this vineyard back in 1983. He has since collaborated with and has created partnerships and mergers with some of the finest vineyards in the Willamette Valley and beyond.
Since the very beginning, Willamette Valley Vineyards has practiced thoughtful stewardship of the farmland. It is one of the key principals in winemaking for Jim Bernau. As one of the first to make a practice of environmentally sustainable farming, WVV was a big part in the founding of the Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) program.
The vision to build a world class winery in Oregon has snowballed into being named the “One of America’s Great Pinot Noir Producers” by Wine Enthusiast.
One of the winery’s unique distinction is that it is owned by 25,000 plus, wine lovers. (NASDAQ: WVVI & WVVIP). This distinction has enabled the company to grow tremendously and the WVV brand is exploding.
The growing company has just recently opened 3 new tasting rooms and restaurants plus their crown jewel, Domaine Willamette, Oregon’s first sparkling wine facility that produces world-class méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines with an underground aging cellar at the biodynamically-farmed Bernau Estate Vineyard.
The tasting experience is well rounded with the addition making wines from other nearby growing regions like Southern Oregon and the Walla Walla Rocks District.
The wine and views of Willamette Valley Vineyards are among the best and should be one the list of places to visit in the Oregon Wine Country.
03: Bethel Heights Vineyard
Bethel Heights is among the oldest vineyards in the Eola- Amity AVA (American viticultural area). It is situated on an independent hill and chain of vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Its geological / topographical mosaic is of rocky south-facing slopes. The volcanic soils were formed over many millennia from innumerable distinct lava flows.
When the family first planted their vines back in 1977, they did not realize the true complexity of these soils until they started making the wine. Once they did, they discovered a very surprising difference between wines made here and wines made from just a few blocks away.
It’s a delightful place to visit when coming to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The wines are beautiful, and so is the view.
04: Trinity Vineyards
Trinity Vineyards is a mom-and-pop vineyard. The vineyard was the dream of Steve Parker and his wife. They built a beautiful home on the property for their family of three, and that is where the name Trinity comes from.
With great wine and an amazing view of the Salem Hills, Trinity is one you really don’t want to miss. In the summer months, you can come and relax with live music, while enjoying the stunning view. They do have a lovely little tasting room, but it is the patio where the magic is.
Trinity is a very laid back place and unlike most tasting rooms in the Willamette Valley, you can arrive without a reservation.
05: Lady Hill
Lady Hill is located on a historical 1,500-acre family farm in St. Paul Oregon which is in the Willamette Valley and just north of Salem. It is very laid back and very casual. They allow picnics however they do serve a “build your own” charcutier station that features local cheeses and meats.
As you drive in down the long driveway, you are greeted by the hogs, and you will also find turkeys on the property. There are no vineyards, as they source most of their grapes from the Walla Walla AVA, but they offer a nice selection white, bold reds, and a sparkling Brut Rose.
The wines are priced very reasonable and the seating area outside is delightfully rural. When the weather is nice, they will often have local live musicians playing everything from opera to bluegrass.
Trinity is a very laid back place with a homey feel. There is nothing pretenous about this place and one of the few vineyards that will accept your visit without a reservation.
Ankeny vineyards is in the north end of Salem. They are set up for live music and lots of fun.
They feature specials each weekend alongside of their regular menu of small bites. They offer wood-fired pizzas which the locals claim to be the best pizza in town. The ingredients are grown from their own garden and also locally sourced from the community as well.
Elton is not a vineyard that is open to visitors. However, I was invited to visit the vineyard so that I could capture these images.
The first time I went up there was the beginning of August 2022. I returned in October to capture the pinot noir fruit in their prime, right as they were to be harvested.
“In 2007, Elton Vineyard was named one of Oregon’s top ten vineyards by Wine Press Northwest, and in 2006 Wine & Spirits listed it as one of the five key vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills American Viticultural Area.
Owned by Dick and Betty O’Brien, the vineyard was planted on land inherited from Betty’s parents, Elton and Peggy Ingram — hence the name Elton Vineyard and the address on Ingram Lane.
Upon the O’Briens’ retirement in 2007, the vineyard was contracted under a long-term lease to Willamette Valley Vineyards.
The vineyard now includes more than 60 acres planted on east-southeast slopes of the Eola Hills, just west of Hopewell, in Yamhill County.
Most of the vineyard contains Pinot Noir, including Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 777 and 114 clones. The vineyard also includes Dijon Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and a small amount of Grüner Veltliner grapes.
Wines made from the grapes at Elton Vineyard, by several winemakers, have been rated 90+ points by The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, among others. “
08: Cristom Vineyards
Cristom Vineyards was established in 1992 by the Gerrie family. It is in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, where they practice biodynamic and organic farming methods.
There are five estate vineyards. Eileen, Jessie, Louise, Marjorie, and Paul Gerrie. All these vineyards are named after family members.
The most well-known and highly distributed wine, the Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir, is a beautiful collaboration of many of Cristom’s Eola-Amity neighbors.
I was at the vineyard one day and captured these “red Leaf” photographs that was most unusual but very colorful. I learned that these vines where under siege and were dying. But before their demise, they showed off some incredible color.